An order of nuns that was in the national spotlight during the Obama years is due back in federal court this week, defending their right to live according to their religious beliefs.
In State of California v. Little Sisters of the Poor, California is suing to end a 2017 regulation that gives religious nonprofits – including the order of Catholic nuns – legal protection from the Obama-era HHS mandate that employers provide health insurance coverage for contraception and abortion-causing drugs.
The new regulation is a result of the 2016 Supreme Court decision in Zubik v. Burwell, which told HHS to revise its rules. Yet shortly after the regulation was passed, Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D-California) sued to take away the Little Sisters' religious exemption, forcing the nuns back to court.
"We have a lot of problems in this country that can be hard to solve," says Mark Rienzi, president of Becket, the law firm representing the Little Sisters of the Poor, "but figuring out how to distribute contraceptives without nuns is not one of them."
The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments on Friday and decide whether the Little Sisters of the Poor can get back to their ministry: caring for the elderly poor.
The attorney general of Pennsylvania has also challenged the regulation that provides relief to Little Sisters of the Poor.
Editor's note: Image above depicts Little Sisters of the Poor and their attorney outside the Supreme Court in 2016.